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October 28, 2022

Happiness comes easily

The other night, I was sitting in front of the television, half following the action on the screen. I was already in my pajamas and felt slippers. My dinner, consisting of a spinach-cheddar omelette, raw veggies and two bagel slices, was getting colder by the minute on the tray I had placed on the living room’s coffee table. Half my body was stretched out on the red sofa, my mind slowly losing interest.

Suddenly the volume on the television increases. Of course, it’s a commercial. A divine voice begins to speak to me. Her voice is irresistibly smooth, deep yet friendly, lilting like a choir of angels. The faceless voice informs me that Lindt chocolate will “make me melt” from happiness. Wow!

The series I am watching is called “The perfect moments” (Les moments parfaits) and the timing of this commercial couldn’t be better. I muster the strength and sit straight like a soldier in front of my commander. My eyes are fixed on the screen. The angelic voice envelops me, just like the long arms of a lover would. A single tiny chocolate fills the entire screen. Not just any chocolate, a Lindt chocolate that can make me melt from happiness. I stand and walk a bit to digest this sweet message. What other wild claims will they dream up to tell anyone willing to listen? It’s a strong statement to make about a tiny chocolate that’s around 2.5 cm across. I imagine the reactions of old ladies like me who still hold on to the hope of finding true love.

The next morning at a new coffee shop in Sainte-Adèle, believe it or not, I and a few good friends are guffawing like teenagers after school. We’re all around 75 and we still have dreams we want to fulfill. All of them are encouraging me to get my hands on these magical chocolates. And so I DO! That same day at lunch, I visit the Lindt store located at the Montreal Premium Outlets centre, just off of Highway 15, about 10 minutes away from home. They give us a big bag when we walk in, and we fill it with all our favourite flavours. Not familiar with these treats, I take five or six of each type and fill my bag for $30, taxes included.

I notice my favourite winter boots in a window shop as I stroll out of the Lindt store: red OLANGS with cleats. I walk in and pick up a few different models priced at $350 each and I stumble back a bit. The price is much more expensive this year. A friendly salesman approaches. Being a penny pincher, especially as I advance in age, I quickly try to think of an excuse to make an exit.
– All your models are red or black. Would you happen to have this in brown to match my fur coat?
– Why yes, I still have a few pairs left over from last year. What size do you wear, Madame?
– 41.

And the salesman disappears into the back store for a few long minutes. I love the red OLANG boots with cleats. My last pair and the ones before them were red. I wore them until the soles were worn through. But as I stood in the store, I found this brand-new pair much too expensive. I really do have a fur coat that I rarely wear. I purchased it during my days as “Madame Cora, CEO” nearly 15 years ago, and it still looks almost new. It is reversible and I always wear it with the fur inside for extra warmth.

The salesman comes back with a huge smile and a big box with the OLANG logo on it.
– You are very lucky! I have one pair left in size 41… and brown, to top it off!
I try them on and quickly ask for the price.
– They are last year’s model, so half-price! Are they the same colour as your fur coat?
– They mostly certainly are!

And it’s no lie: They really are the same colour as my fur coat. I must be the luckiest woman alive! Equipped with my new brown cleated boots, I will no doubt wear my matching fur coat more often. At the cash, I open my bag of Lindt chocolates in front of the clerk and hand him three. I stare at him for a moment to observe the chocolate’s effect. And he literally melts with happiness in front of me. His eyes glisten, his cheeks blush and he smiles. Then I hear the most delicious-sounding THANK YOU ever uttered.

Right then I suspect I’m going to get a lot out of my small Lindt chocolates. Whatever the moment, whatever the place, I will be the one melting with happiness when I offer these delicious chocolate delicacies to whomever I can. In reality, the commercial was right: Lindt chocolates melt both receiver and giver with happiness.

9:10 p.m.
My phone sounds. I’m getting a picture by text. My first-born son’s fingers are covered in bright colours. He struggles, he cries, he paints day after day, searching for a soporific light capable of putting his brief nights to sleep. Sometimes he sends me a picture of a painting that is darker than an abyss and asks me if I see a dragon or a pilgrim lost in a forest. This son is an artist; the one who sees things that do not yet exist. He can spend an entire week coiffing the swells of a rough sea, caressing each wave that rolls or breaks on the beach. When he plays with 10 shades of blue, his patience is comparable to a Buddhist nun. And I’m a witness to his creative journey that sometimes lasts for many weeks. He and I share “the draft,” that first imperfect sketch that we create. Whether a drawing or text, drafts are very similar: They all hint at a certain beginning. A working title, a first layer of colour, very often trapped under a heap of doubt and hesitation.

Stringing together words is not as messy as painting, but their meaning is slower to come. Words have to wait, like unruly children in a schoolyard waiting for the bell to ring before they march forward in an orderly file. The recess usually lasts a few days in my mind. Words totter, jerking this way and that, on slippery ice. And it pains me as I wait. I wonder if I have a shred of talent. I beg my muses or some divine benediction from the sky above. I should keep in mind the fable “The Lion and the Mouse” by Jean de La Fontaine. I remind myself it’s no use getting worked up when facing adversity and that we must, quite the opposite, keep calm and act with poise. Dear heavens, dare I repeat the expression “By time and toil we sever, What strength and rage could never,” which my mom used to say whenever I would fume about having to finish my knitting, redo my dictation errors, clean up my little sisters’ room, destem all the strawberries in the big bowl or fold an entire line of sun-dried towels. Everything intertwines in my mind; the new and the old of each paragraph, of each memory. Will my life be long enough to ease this ardour?